Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Reason why Bureaucrats Make More

"Of course I get more benefits and stuff, but I think I deserve them. I do a lot of work, and it's stressful."

-Public Servant Shannon Steele

It sure is stressful. So stressful in fact that on average, bureaucrats take:

17.3 vacation days
8.3 sick days
1.6 "family days"

In 2002-2003, the average salary in the public service was $73,400 including benefits. In the private sector it is $38,885.

And, despite earning more than those in the private sector, bureaucrats also lead the way in anxiety and depression...

So next time you meet someone who works for the government, give them a hug. They need it.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Return of the Bloated Bureaucracy

No, it's not the latest summer blockbuster. Unfortunately, this movie is real. Big Government is Back. The Storyline? The cost of the public service is skyrocketing...

After cuts in the 1990's, the federal public service has slowly ballooned up to levels not seen since the books were first balanced in 1997-98. Of course, bigger government is more expensive government and indeed, the costs are staggering. Another reason why the federal government hasn't introduced meaningful tax relief perhaps...

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Toronto Councilors Seize the Cash!

Thanks to the Toronto Sun we have learned about more abuse of spending by Toronto City Council.

Discretionary spending budgets are fine if they are transparent, accountble and those using them use their wise discretion. Unfortunately, in Toronto, Executive Council members hide the expenses and buy whatever the heck they want:
- a paperback novel (Seize the Fire) about the battle of Trafalgar
- home phone
- home internet
- Costco membeship
- a junket for a councilor AND his wife to go to China
These are just a few examples.

And they wonder why we won't agree to their proposed tax hike.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Sask: Another "swing seat" gets a fat cheque

This time the lucky constituency is Meadow Lake!

Human rights can wait!!!

How very liberal of them:

Many in the hearing room, including lawyers and other representatives of First Nations organizations, burst into applause when Liberal, New Democratic Party and Bloc Quebecois MPs staved off the government effort, passed the consultation motion for the second time and adjourned for the rest of the summer recess.

"Human rights rammed down a community's throats are not human rights," Anita Neville, Liberal aboriginal affairs critic, said during the hearing.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

De-taxer gets his day in court

Yank, who was being prosecuted for tax evasion, argues that income taxes are illegal...and the jury agrees.

Time to Move Jim Flaherty?

Is Jim Flaherty about to be shuffled out of the finance portfolio?

Despite his clear competence, Jim Flaherty has not exactly been an asset to the federal government since becoming finance minister. A few of his mis-steps include:

Flip Flop on Income Trusts
Adopting Liberal spending habits
Failing to offer broad-based tax relief
Implementing gimmicky fiscal and tax policy
Being hyper-sensitive to any criticism

Shockingly, Jim Flaherty is the first finance minister in Canadian history to refuse to meet with the CTF to hear our pre-budget reccommendations. Why, you ask? It seems his office is highly thin-skinned when it comes to any criticism. Call them out on their Liberal spending: hyper-sensitivity...Remind them of promises made in opposition that they've failed to address: more defence...And the list goes on.

One thing's for sure... Either Jim Flaherty is a changed man or he has been handcuffed by the PMO, because this is a pale pink immitation of the Common Sense Revolutionary we once knew.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Two Peas in a Pod

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty is telling Toronto Mayor David Miller to raise taxes.

Let's re-cap a few memorable (paraphrased) lines from Misters McGuinty and Miller:

Dalton McGuinty

"I won't raise your taxes." (September/October 2003)

"Oops...I just introduced the largest tax increase in Ontario's history." (April 2004)

"I won't raise your taxes...Again...I mean it this time." (June 2007)

"We need a new tax on televisions, computers, and printers." (June 2007)

David Miller

"The federal and provincial governments rip Toronto off. We need new taxes." (everyday since being elected)

"We are ramming many many new taxes down the throats of Toronto residents. Some people are opposed? Damn them all." (May 2007)

"I am so arrogant and such a left-wing ideologue that I am going to ignore a poll that says 71% of Torontonians oppose new taxes. Heck, I'm not even going to show up at the public forums to discuss these new taxes." (May-June 2007)

"You rejected my plan for new taxes? How dare you! That's it - I am ordering my minions to cut recreation programs to under-privledged kids. That'll teach you to not stand in my way!"

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Our Blog's rating

Since every other blog in the world is doing it, why not us.

Apparently the words "gun" and "crack" appeared a few times recently (see the unusually large picture of a gun below) to give us such a harsh rating.

Should We Ban Handguns???

The Conservative government is not planning any new gun laws in response to the recent gun violence in Toronto.

Are they wrong? Would a further ban on handguns have prevented these horrible acts? Don't bet on it.

We could ban hand guns, all blunt objects, and anything that could be used as a weapon and guess what? The only guns that would be left would be the ones "owned" by criminals...

These crimes are tragic but new gun restrictions won't prevent them. Just as the long gun-registry bogged down duck hunters in bureaucratic silliness, any handgun law will do the same for target shooters.

Street gangs? Will the Crips and Bloods trade up their glocks for water balloons? Again, don't bet on it...

Monday, July 23, 2007

Hardly a whisper

In the middle of July, during a steamy heat wave, movement is afoot to extend to aboriginals the human rights enshrined in the Charter. For the past 30 years this has not been the case.

Now that someone is actually doing something about it, opposition members first instinct is to alter the bill to preserve the train-wreck of a communist experiment that is the reserve system.

However, Mayes was less certain about the opposition's demands that the bill be amended so as to safeguard collective First Nations rights to treaty land and other entitlements as the Indian Act becomes exposed to potential claims that it is an inherently racist law.
(By the way, the Indian Act is an inherently racist law. I defy anyone who show me how it isn't.)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

As high as taxes are in Canada...

...things can always be much, much worse.

(PS: I'm sure David Miller is scanning that article for fresh ideas)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Tory, McGuinty, Hampton Consider Bailing Out Toronto and Consider Taxing Powers for Other Cities

Toronto is the epicentre of a taxquake in Ontario. Premier McGuinty, John Tory and Howard Hampton are all considering giving hundreds of millions of dollars to bail out Toronto.

Yesterday, city council voted to buy a bankrupt theatre buidling for $1.2 million and will lease it back at $2 per year. This is a 600,000 year interest free loan. Is this the kind of fiscal responsibility that deserves to be rewarded with more Ontario taxpayer dollars?!

In the meantime a provincial report will come out in February recommending that ALL Ontario municipalities will get new taxing powers.

Look out folks, the Toronto taxquake is having aftershocks rippling into your home town!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Breaking News: New Toronto taxes vote delayed

I just heard from our guy in Ontario, Kevin Gaudet, who has been enduring the endless debate at City Hall, that Toronto City Council has narrowly voted (23-22) in favour of delaying the vote on the new vehicle registration tax ($60 per car per year) and the new land-transfer tax (0.5 - 2% of the sale price of the home/property) until after the provincial election in Ontario.

The new vote date is October 22.

This is most certainly a victory for those opposed to the taxes, as tax-loving Mayor David "my tax is this big" Miller (above) wanted this pushed through today.

Good work Kevin, et al.

Tax cuts and a *slight* correction...

Is Premier Stelmach ready to make some tax cuts?

According to Sunday's Calgary Sun, he's thinking about it (no link, sorry).

Now, as part of a Stampede sitdown gab with Premier Ed, the new provincialmain man is also talking about next spring's budget, which will likely include tax relief, including the province possibly matching Ottawa's $100 monthly cash for kids.


Ed says his tall foreheads are now looking at the implications of lowering the province's 10% flat tax rate or raising the amount of income you can make before beginning to pay Alberta taxes.

Either way this is good news.

While we would certainly favour broad-based income tax relief (like cutting the 10% rate or increasing the basic personal exemption) we wouldn't turn down $100 per child per month either.

But beyond either of these, it's the health care premium that has to go first.

In today's Calgary Sun, we say as much.

Correction: There's a slight problem with one of the quotes in today's Sun story, regarding numbers. When I'm ranting I occasionally talk a bit quick, so some reporters struggle to write as fast as I talk. But my last quote should probably read:

"Hennig said health-care premiums are $1,056 a year for a family, which can be a sizable amount for those struggling to make ends meet.

'At the $35,000 level, it's like a 4-point addition your income tax, whereas when you're making $135,000, it's maybe one or two points.' "

I was talking about how the health care premium is regressive and how on your after-tax income the health care premium is more if you have less income and less if you have more income.

Before-tax income: $35,000 [assuming a married single-wage earner family]
After-tax income: $29,000 [roughly]
% of their after-tax income that goes to Alberta health care premiums: 3.6%

Before-tax income: $135,000 [same assumptions]
After-tax income: $94,000 [roughly]
% of their after-tax income that goes to Alberta health care premiums: 1.1%

So, the original point I was trying to make was that an additional 4% (3.6%) of your income going to taxes is like a 40% increase in the 10% single-rate income tax here in Alberta.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Alberta Ministerial Expenses: Update

As per my post yesterday on Alberta government ministerial office expenses, I noticed expenses were quite high compared to the month previous.

So, I made up this chart to look at just how high they are this month compared to last month (ranked in order of largest increase):

The largest increase was the Ministry of Education's office with a 1654% increase, followed closely by Service Alberta and Treasury Board with an 1199% increase.

Most offices had very large increases, with the average increase being 516%.

In fact, all but two offices (Children's Services and Energy) at least doubled their expenditures from April.

With the Minister's of Education and Service Alberta (Ron Liepert and Lloyd Snelgrove) being two of the more fiscally conservative members of cabinet showing the two largest increases, I decided there had to be some accounting errors or reporting changes that would explain why almost every office had large spending increases.

This is what I was told:

"Two reasons – more travel expenses, and under goods and supplies some ministries reported their annual vehicle leases as a one-time expense in May rather than pro-rate over 12 months."

That's not exactly the answer I was expecting. I figured it would be a more technical accounting explanation.

Travel would explain the increase in the Advance Education & Technology expenses (Minister went to China) as well as the Finance expenses (Minister went to NYC & Toronto).

But what about Education? They reported $7,816.34 in "Meals, accommodation, and travel." But there's no news release from April or May that would indicate the Minister was travelling anywhere.

Did they report vehicle leases under "travel"?

And what about Service Alberta and Treasury Board, they reported $ 3,404.01 in "Goods, supplies and services, and other expenses," is that all a vehicle lease?

That would be a lease of $284/month. That's pretty cheap compared to say Seniors, who reported $11,756.99 in the same category. If that was all a vehicle lease it would be $980 per month.

But it's not completely unfathomable, especially when you consider the cost to lease a 2007 Nissan Pathfinder is $906/mo (48 mo term).

UPDATE: Oh, and I got an answer on how the Ministry of Health and Wellness reported a revenue gain of $490.72 last month.

"The negative amount showing up in the Month of May reflects charges paid in April relating to the 2006/07 fiscal year. We had set up an accrual for those charges and paid them in April 2007, as we were not able to process payment before the cut off for 2006/07. The April report reflected those charges.

The timing of the report for April publication however, did not allow us time to process the reversing transaction to move those charges back to 2006/07 where they belonged and therefore the reversing transaction now is reflected in May's report."

That answer is a lot less interesting than the potential of Minister Dave Hancock running an illegal Bed and Breakfast out of his office...

The bottom line is that while the government deserves much praise for putting these numbers on-line, they do not go far enough to explain what money is being spent on.

But, it's a start and we'll keep working on them to give us more info...

Ottawa cancels free crack pipe program

Junkie #1: "Hey, do you want to go smoke some crack?"

Junkie #2: "Well of course! I just have to go stop by City Hall first, pay my property taxes and pick up a new crack pipe."

Junkie #1: "Didn't you read the Ottawa Citizen this morning? The pipe program has been cancelled."

Junkie #2: "Awe rats! And to think I donated to Chiarelli's campaign! I'll take a rain check on the crack smoking."

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Alberta: Ministerial Expenses for May

As per last month's post, the Alberta government is now putting Ministerial Office Expenses on-line.

And in what is now a two-month tradition, here are the award winners:

May 2007

This month's "Gold Star" goes to Children's Services, and Minister Janice Tarchuk for having the lowest office expenditures in May 2007 of $1,854.72.

And this month's "Frowning Clown" goes to Finance, and Minister Dr. Lyle Oberg for having the highest office expenditures in May 2007 of $20,291.34.

Dr. Oberg also racked up the largest expense bill in April 2007, and is leading the fiscal 2007-08 class with total expenditures nearing $27k.

Ms. Tarchuk is also leading in fiscal 2007-08 for lowest expenses at slightly over $4k.

Interestingly, the office of Dave Hancock, Minister of Health and Wellness showed a negative expenditure of $490.72 for "Meals, accommodation, and travel" this month. This either means the Minister's office is moonlighting as a caterer, B&B or travel agent to make some money on the side, or it was a refund on a cancelled trip. I'm guessing the former...

Monday, July 09, 2007

Poll: 74% of Torontonians oppose massive tax grab

The few people who actually support the largest single tax hike in the history of the city of Toronto must all be Toronto city councillors and city employees.

The CTF-commissioned poll by Holinshed Research Group also shows a very high awareness of the taxes at 77%. (The results are accurate to +/-4.89% 19 times out of twenty and the sample was 402 adults over the age of 18).

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Edmonton: money for millionaires but not for infrastructure

The City of Edmonton and the Alberta government are teaming up to give Lionsgate Entertainment $8.9 million tax dollars to bribe them to come to Edmonton to film one of two TV shows.

The City of Edmonton is kicking in $3.5 million and the Alberta government is in for $5.4 million.

But can someone please explain to me why taxpayers' money is being given to a company that enjoyed $977 million (USD) in revenues last year?

This is corporate welfare cut and dry. It's no different than our federal government cutting cheques to Quebec aerospace companies like Bombardier or Pratt & Whitney.

The City of Edmonton is bragging about this hand-out by exclaiming that it will create 100 jobs.

100 jobs for $8.9 million!?! That's $89,000 per job. It would be cheaper for the city and the province just to find 100 out of work actors and cut them all cheques for $45,000. It would save taxpayers $4.4 million.

The City is also bragging about getting a 15% cut of the net proceeds. Which the Mayor claims "should cover the $3.5 million in city grants."

However, one of the two shows being considered is "The Dresden Files" which is rumoured to be near cancellation by the cable-only Sci-Fi channel.

Mr. Mayor, you're an astute businessman, what's 15% of $0?

As an "investment" this is a terrible one. If it was such a good "investment" the private sector would have jumped all over it.

The Alberta government got an even worse deal because they get 0% of the profits, it's strictly a cash hand-out.

The City of Edmonton and the Government of Alberta need to re-focus their priorities (and our tax dollars) on priorities like fixing crumbling infrastructure, education, health care, etc, not bribing millionaires to come to our city.

Read more here and here.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Bensimon: taking notes on the use of public funds?

As promised, we did a bit more poking around Mr. Jacques Bensimon's hospitality expenses and came across this gem:


The receipt itself is interesting - 2 people spending $49.50 for "refreshments" in the name of "business development" in Paris.

And it is also interesting that only an American Express receipt is turned in, so we don't know how many or in what form those "refreshments" were consumed.

But, what is most interesting is Mr. Bensimon's choice of guest.

It was none other than Isabelle Juppé the wife of former French Prime Minister Alain Juppé.

In 2004, Mr. Juppé was convicted of "abuse of public funds." He then fled France to Canada where taught at École nationale d'administration publique in Montreal.

Read more about Juppé here.

They're both back in France now as, Mr. Juppé, after being convicted of misusing public funds, he was elected the Mayor of Bordeaux.

Mr. Bensimon met with Isabelle about a month after Mr. Juppé's electoral victory.

Perhaps they were toasting their shared love of using public funds...

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